In hindsight, bettors should have been all over Notional in his debut on Oct. 21 at Santa Anita.
Owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill opted to skip a maiden race restricted to California-bred horses with the 2-year-old In Excess colt the day before and run him against open company.
The confidence was justified. Dismissed at 11-1 in a field of 12, Notional rolled to a 2 1/2 -length win, completing the six furlongs in a quick 1:09. His Beyer Speed Figure, a measure of how fast a horse runs that is published in the Daily Racing Form, was 105. The only 2-year-old who has gotten a higher figure this year is Street Sense, who received a 106 when he easily won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile two weeks ago at Churchill Downs.
Nearly a month later, Notional will make his graded stakes debut against a solid field in the Grade III $100,000 Hollywood Prevue at seven furlongs. The Prevue is a prelude to the $250,000 Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 16.
Purchased for $235,000 at Barretts’ March sale, Notional, who did all his prep work over the Cushion track before his win in Arcadia, has continued to train well since the victory.
“This guy has been an absolute true professional in every sense since we’ve had him,” O’Neill said. “You sense that he knows exactly what he is supposed to be doing.”
Notional will be ridden for the first time today by Corey Nakatani.
Another youngster who will receive a lot of attention in the Prevue is Belgravia. Purchased for $2 million at a Florida sale in February by Michael Tabor, John Magnier and Zayat Stables and trained by Patrick Biancone, the Mr. Greeley colt won as the 13-10 favorite in his debut on Oct. 18 at Keeneland.
Julien Leparoux, who rode Belgravia to the Polytrack victory, will make his second visit to California in less than a week to ride the chestnut.
“He’s a very talented horse,” said Biancone, who won the Prevue and Futurity with Lion Heart in 2003. “He worked fast at the sale and was a beautiful horse. You see the athlete and try to project what he will be when he matures. Some turn out well and some don’t.”
Belgravia will be coupled in the wagering with Chief’s Magic, who was second as the 1-2 favorite in the Barretts’ Juvenile at Fairplex Park in his most recent start. The winner of that race was Roman Commander, who has since won the Real Quiet and is being pointed to the Futurity.
“You’re always scared of any horse that cost $2 million and you have to be afraid” of Chief’s Magic, O’Neill said. “But I feel confident in our horse and I think we will be tough in there.”
Another contender is Dilemma, who has won two in a row after beginning his career with two defeats. Dilemma won the Sunny Slope Stakes at Santa Anita in his last start on Oct. 22.
Hollywood Story, a multiple stakes winner who clearly was at her best when running at Hollywood Park, has been retired.
Owned by George Krikorian and trained by John Shirreffs, the 5-year-old Wild Rush mare won four of 27 in her career and earned over $1.17 million.
The main event at Hollywood Park on Sunday is the $100,000 Moccasin, an ungraded race at seven furlongs for 2-year-old fillies with designs on next month’s Hollywood Starlet.
The 120-pound highweight in the field of eight is Market Day, an English bred who will be making her U.S. debut after winning three of eight in her native country. Patrick Valenzuela will ride for owner Faisal Salman and trainer Eoin Harty.